Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

Proverbs 20:1

Let’s get one thing straight: we don’t do addictions counseling.  We do marital and relationship counseling.  If alcohol or drugs or anything else for that matter, are so important to you that you can’t function without it, then you aren’t ready for marital counseling.  And please don’t be upset with us when we tell you that.

Why would we say that?  Couldn’t the relationship problems be contributing to the alcohol abuse?  Sure.  And probably vice versa.  I drink because my relationship sucks; my relationship sucks because I drink.  We can understand that.  That’s why if you are getting drunk on a regular basis or drugs are in your life, you are not a candidate for martial therapy.  You have to have a brain to be in marital therapy.  If you are self-medicating by other things you aren’t using your brain.  Your brain is taking a holiday and won’t be available for use.

This is what we will tell you: If you are going to be in marital therapy with us we would challenge you to stop the addictive behavior for six weeks.  If you can’t or simply won’t stop the behavior for six weeks, you aren’t a candidate for marital therapy.  There isn’t a marital therapist in the world who can compete with an addiction or a lawyer.  Those are two things that render us worthless.  If you are talking to your lawyer about dumping your spouse or visiting with Jack Daniels about your problems, you will just be filling up space in our office.  We love your money, thank you very much, but if you are going to pay us it’s supposed to be for something and if either of those two things are on your priority list, then you need to either fix those things first or go ahead and choose them.  You aren’t fooling anybody.

We won’t say this to you to be mean.  We’re people helpers.  We WANT to help.  We just can’t.  Addictions counseling is very serious business.  To be good at it you need to do it all the time.  We could probably do it full time.  It’s not our strength or our training background, so we just admit we’re not that good at it and refer you out.  Take care of the addiction and then we can work on the marriage.

But if you are willing and able to stop for six weeks, then we’ll give it a go.  It doesn’t work every time, but often enough to make us believers in the process.  Here’s how it CAN work:

You stop drinking (for example) for six weeks and we work on your marriage with you and your spouse.  While you are NOT drinking your brain clears up considerably.  You have feelings again because you aren’t numbing them out.  You work on these feelings in therapy and with your spouse.  You start to communicate instead of yelling or shutting down all the time.  Your spouse lightens up now that she knows what you are thinking and feeling and doesn’t have to invent in her head what she thinks you are thinking and feeling because you are actually able to tell her.  It turns out she can handle your negative thoughts and feelings after all and isn’t a basket case and, in fact, relaxes because her knowing your thoughts and feelings enables her to feel closer to you, which is all she’s ever wanted all along.  You notice she’s stopped nagging and teases you once in awhile.  She even flirted with you and patted you on the butt secretly in Target that one day.  You relax about feeling like she’s on your case all the time.  You want to come home instead of partying with those guys that don’t have a life.  You come home and help set the table.  The kids relax and are hanging around more and helping out more.  You notice you have more money because you aren’t spending it all on beer.  You like having more money.  You like having your wife talk to you instead of at you.  You like telling your wife stuff and seeing her smile.  You like having a love life again.  What happened to your kids?  They seem friendlier.  You decide you don’t need this beer so much after all.  You quit it altogether and you never went to treatment.  Imagine that.  Your marriage is awesome.  High five to the marriage therapist.

Or you try marital therapy for awhile and you last about two weeks and the lure of alcohol is so strong that you can’t not drink.  You tell yourself you won’t but you do anyway.  You come home at two in the morning.  Your wife is waiting up for you.  She confronts you, not so much because you were late, but because you drove home drunk….again.  You both have a big blow out.  The police are called.  Blah, blah, blah.  Guess what you talk about in therapy?  The stupid alcohol.  The stupid fight.  The fact that your therapist is saying:  Okay, then, time for treatment.

That’s all.  What are we saying?  You choose.  You want marital therapy?  You quit for six weeks.  You want beer?  Then drink.  Your choice.  But if you are having an affair with Bud or Jack don’t expect your marriage to improve anytime soon.  We can’t help you enough.


Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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